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AFAIK the question/negative with uncountable nouns is expressed as follows:

  • Hai dello zucchero? (= Do you have any sugar?)
  • Non ne ho (alcuno/nessuno). (= I don't have any)

Is alcuno/nessuno indeed optional?

What about countable nouns? Could I use the same structure ? Example:

  • Hai delle camicie pulite? (= Do you have any clean shirts?)
  • Non ne ho (alcuna/nessuna). (= I don't have any)
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    Alcuna/nessuna is optional for the answer to the second question; no option for the first: you can't add “alcuno/nessuno”. – egreg Nov 19 '19 at 17:02
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Most Italian grammars don’t make the distinction between “countable” and “uncountable”, but in some cases it exists.

For instance, the negative answer to Hai dello zucchero? should be Non ne ho without the alcuno/nessuno qualifier.

The qualifier is optional in the similar answer to Hai delle uova?, which can be either Non ne ho or Non ne ho nessuna.

Pedantic grammars would insist in prescribing Non ne ho alcuna, in order to avoid the double negation, which is however largely used in the spoken language (and rather extensively used also in the written language). You’ll often hear alcuno in controlled speech, though.

Some quotations.

Mise l’indice e il medio della mano sinistra nel collare, come per raccomodarlo; e, girando le due dita intorno al collo, volgeva intanto la faccia all’indietro, torcendo insieme la bocca, e guardando con la coda dell’occhio, fin dove poteva, se qualcheduno arrivasse; ma non vide nessuno. (Capitolo 1)

– […] Oh, se fossero stati pugni, sarebbe un’altra faccenda; ma il bastone non isporca le mani a nessuno. (Capitolo 5)

– Perché volete far de’ cattivi auguri, Lucia? Dio sa che non facciam male a nessuno. (Capitolo 7)

— […] È il vostro; ci siete nati; non avete fatto male a nessuno; ma Dio vuol così. (Capitolo 8)

L'esaminatore fu prima stanco d'interrogare, che la sventurata di mentire: e, sentendo quelle risposte sempre conformi, e non avendo alcun motivo di dubitare della loro schiettezza, mutò finalmente linguaggio; […] (Capitolo 10)

All quotations are from “I promessi sposi”. As far as I can see, alcuno is quite rarely used in a negative context, like in the last example, where a more formal narration tone is employed, as opposed to the informal tone in the first quotation. In the dialogs non […] nessuno is always found.

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In the first answer, alcuno/nessuno is incorrect.

The answer should be only: Non ne ho.

In the second answer, you can add nessuno. Alcuno for me sounds a bit weird in this answer.

I think that in the first you cannot add nessuno/alcuno because zucchero is an uncountable noun

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  • Thanks for the answer. Is there any reason why this answer was not upvoted? It seems to me that (as many other things in languages) there is no logical reason in this usage, it is just idiomatic. In Portuguese, for instance, it is idiomatic to use "nenhum" (the equivalent of "nessuno") with both countable and uncountable nouns in this context. – Alan Evangelista Mar 19 '20 at 21:06
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I am adding to the answer and comment already present which are correct; it can help those who are not familiar with the italian double negation.

Non ne ho nessuna

is an example of the "double negation" very common in Italian; any Italian would understand that as "I have no shirts", but logically (in mathematical sense) it really means "it is false that I have no shirts". In fact, the following dialogue could happen:

Mario, to Nicola: "Tu non hai nessuna camicia" (double negation again)
Nicola: "Non ne ho nessuna, ne ho tre!"

(The above dialogue can really happen)

The other answer mentions that "alcuno" sounds weird (strange would be better?) in a negative phrase: at first sight may be but, thinking more, it is not:

Mario: "Tu non hai camicie"
Nicola: "E' vero, non ne ho alcuna"

And there is also a common phrase "senza alcun dubbio...".

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    Non è quello che spiega la Treccani qui e qui. – Charo Mar 19 '20 at 8:15
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    @Charo la mia spiegazione non è in contrasto con il Treccani. – linuxfan says Reinstate Monica Mar 19 '20 at 8:41
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    «grammatically it really means "it is false that I have no shirts"»: This is not actually true: non ne ho nessuna doesn't mean anything else than “I have no (whatever)”. You might say that logically it should mean that, or something like it, but in Italian grammar this kind of “double negation” is a standard form to express a negation. – DaG Mar 19 '20 at 8:54
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    @dag agreed. I update the answer – linuxfan says Reinstate Monica Mar 19 '20 at 10:04
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    Grazie, @linuxfansaysReinstateMonica, ma non credo di aver nessun bisogno di approfondire nella logica a cui ti referisci, che adesso vedo che, secondo la Treccani, si chiama "logica degli enunciati". E penso che la domanda non abbia niente a che vedere con questo. – Charo Mar 19 '20 at 18:39

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